Every June and November, Sikhs in Canada (and globally) are curious to see what Canadian politicians will say about the tragedies of 1984.
Will they align themselves with the community and provide support and solidarity with the Sikhs as they come together to remember both the invasion and massacre of innocents inside the Darbar Sahib complex during the hot month of June; and then the senseless targeting, butchering, killing and raping of Sikhs during the November Sikh Genocide?
Although the answer is a no brainer to human rights activists, like many social justice issues they seem to be tough political decisions that attract countless discussions and debates amongst politicians and political parties about vote banks, international cooperation, trade relations, development, foreign policy and much more. That is why we have seen sporadic statements from the Liberals and Conservatives for November, rarely if ever for June and a lack of consistency.
But as the most recent election showed, under the previous leadership of Jack Layton, the NDP without fail, made the most bold, strongly-worded and consistent statements and saw significant gains in regions such as Brampton, Mississauga and Surrey. With Jack Layton at the helm of the NDP, Sikhs in Canada knew they had an ally and friend in Ottawa who stood the test of time, even under pressure and manipulative actions by the Government of India.
After the tragic passing of Jack Layton last year, many in the community wondered who would be the next champion for the Sikhs. During the leadership race, we assessed all the leadership candidates, trying to determine who best reflected Jack Layton’s vision and position on Sikh issues. In the end, Tom Mulcair was the last man standing, chosen to lead the NDP forward.
Like many Sikhs, we watched closely, we held our breath and waited for him to make his move as the Leader of the Official Opposition.
We asked: will Tom Mulcair be as bold as Jack Layton, will he continue to defend human rights and put a spotlight on India’s dark record of abuse?
To our relief, the answer became evident recently. On June 4th, Tom Mulcair showed that he is confidently continuing Jack Layton’s legacy. He’s demanding justice for the victims and survivors of the atrocities of 1984. Unfortunately, in response and to no surprise the Government of India is again flexing its political muscle and trying to scare the NDP’s new leader into retreat, but like Jack – Tom is a fighter and he is standing firm.
Shortly after this past June statement on 1984, members from the Indian government and those aligned with the Conservatives were up to their old tricks – bombarding the mainstream media with their propaganda and smear tactics (read more about it here).
However, living up to his image as a principled fighter, Tom recently responded and made it very clear that he was not going to be bullied or harassed and that he would not back down on the party’s principled position, stating:
“I saw the remarks that were being made by the Indian Ambassador…my letter was quite clear by the way it was per verbatim similar to the letter that Jack Layton had put out, so we were surprised by the reaction that it provoked…we think it is fair… to ask for a rendering of accounts, we believe that justice delayed is justice denied and that people have a right to know what happened because there has never been a full rendering of the account…”
Further adding that,
“I won’t be told that I cannot take the same position that the NDP has always been taking on this issue.”
The comments by Tom are a clear indication that his approach is principled, that he is unwilling to abandon the community regardless of any attempt by India to manipulate the facts.
The Sikh community has affirmed another ally in our pursuit for justice, peace and reconciliation. Tom has demonstrated that much like his predecessor Jack, he will support the Sikh community based on a principled approach, that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere and that consequently he and his party have an obligation to speak out against the 1984 human rights abuses.
And, as Sikhs we must move forwarded remind that when we engage in the political system we must be sure to do so on a principled basis – to support those who are not afraid to support our campaigns of justice.